Cristian Ribera is not only the youngest participant in the Pyeongchang Winter Paralympics, but by coming sixth in the men’s cross-country long distance sitting he has secured Brazil’s best ever placing in the Games to date.
“It is very important for me to be the youngest Paralympian at this Games, but what I really wanted when I came here was to do well and surprise everyone,” Ribera told paralympic.org.
“I feel so honoured for having made history for my country, it is an inexplicable feeling,” he said.
Ribera finished ahead of some more established athletes in the event, no mean feat considering his opportunities to train on snow are limited.
“We train on rollers because there is no snow in Brazil. That allows us to run in the streets. We work the technique a lot, but of course the transition to running on the snow is not easy. It is quite different. We train on snow once per year in Europe.”
There are snowy options closer to home, but accessibility is a problem. “We would like to go to Argentina or Chile,” Ribera says, “but it is not so wheelchair-friendly.”
Brazil made their Winter Paralympics debut in Sochi in 2014, becoming only the third South American nation to send athletes to compete, after Chile and Argentina.
Ribera was pleased with his performance in Pyeongchang. “It was a good event, I managed to have good rhythm throughout. Despite not reaching the top five, I met my goal of ending among the top 10. It was very tough and did not imagine something like this at only 15 years old.”
He was introduced to the sport by the Agitos Foundation, which was running workshops in Brazil looking for potential future Paralympians.
Ribera only has one team-mate with him in South Korea. Aline Rocha, who carried the nation’s flag in the opening ceremony, also competes in para-Nordic skiing. She finished 15th in the women’s 12km sitting. Rocha also took part in the 2016 Paralympics in Rio, and is the first woman to represent Brazil in the Winter Paralympics.
Ribera sees taking part in Pyeongchang as just the start. “All athletes dream with competing at a Paralympic Games. But I had never thought of doing it so early in my career and life. I want to train more and develop myself as an athlete. I know this experience in Pyeongchang will serve as a learning for my whole life.”
He will compete again on Wednesday, in the 1.1km sprint event.
Silver for Britain’s Fitzpatrick
Great Britain’s Menna Fitzpatrick was “over the moon” after claiming silver in the visually impaired super-combined event alongside guide Jennifer Kehoe on Tuesday. It was a second trip to the podium in Pyeongchang for the pair, who had already secured super-G bronze on Sunday.
Their super-G time of one minute and 31.49secs from Tuesday’s opening session put them in second place and they retained the spot, behind Henrieta Farkasova and Natalia Subrtova of Slovakia, having done their slalom run in an impressive 57.51secs. Fellow Britons Millie Knight and Brett Wild – silver medallists both on Sunday and in Saturday’s downhill event – were third after their super-G run but ended up fourth, with Australia’s Melissa Perrine and Christian Geiger taking the bronze. Kelly Gallagher and Gary Smith finished seventh.
“I need to take a deep breath,” said 19-year-old Fitzpatrick. “It feels absolutely amazing, I’m over the moon. The communication was there, we had a really good warm-up, the sun was shining – everything came together and it’s a fabulous day.”
In the men’s super-combined standing event James Whitley, the 20-year-old grandson of former Northern Ireland prime minister James Chichester-Clark, came 11th. Scotsman Scott Meenagh finished 13th in the sitting 12.5km biathlon.
More than 320,000 tickets sold for 12th Winter Paralympics
‘The number of visitors from overseas has also been a joy to see’
With five days of competition left to go, the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics has already set a new record for ticket sales, surpassing the total number sold at Sochi in 2014.
Sales have now reached 320,531. Friday’s opening ceremony was attended by 21,000 people, while more than 100,000 had purchased tickets for the first three days of competition – with a turnout rate of 75%. Some 90% of tickets for all remaining sessions in the Pyeongchang Games have been sold.
As UK cinemas prepare for the release of Paddy Considine’s new feature Journeyman, it’s a good time to think about the genre that Considine is working in: the boxing film. Asked to list some of the genre’s characteristics, the average movie-goer might say: a working-class setting, predictable rise and fall, lots of triumphalism, and something else … Americans. In spite of the sport’s Anglo-American genesis and its still immense popularity in the UK, few British films about the fight game – compared with the heft of Rocky or Raging Bull or Creed or Million Dollar Baby – have ever made a big dent, either at the box office or in the public consciousness.
Considine’s second film as director in fact turns away from the expectations of genre. His is a humane and realistic depiction of a fighter battling a brain injury.Iteschews rags-to-riches tales, heroic comebacks or greedy mob fixers, and focuses simply on a wealthy professional athlete facing a heartbreaking situation. And beyond the film’s unexpected treatment of familiar sports terrain, there’s something else about Journeyman that’s nice: it’s homegrown.
There is a small sub-section of British film-makers who have shown a fascination with the sport, particularly vis-a-vis its connections to class, poverty and social realism. Among those ranks are Considine’s friend and collaborator Shane Meadows, whose debut 1997 feature about an amateur boxing gym, TwentyFour Seven, was nominated for best British film at the Baftas the following year, and actor-screenwriter Johnny Harris, who worked with Meadows on the TV series This Is England ’86 and its follow-ups.
Speaking to the Guardian about his film Jawbone last year, Harris said: “I just wanted to make a really good British boxing movie.” Harris managed to do precisely that; it balances a terse realism with saleable performances from tough-guy stars such as Ray Winstone and Ian McShane. Jawbonewas released to critical fanfare, but sadly little box office success.
Jezz Vernon, distributor of several hit direct-to-DVD films such as The Guvnors (2014), and executive producer of forthcoming boxing films of the same kind (Ten Count, Requiem for a Fighter), points out that Jawbone’s lack of takings did not bode well for the future of the Brit boxing flick. “There was a lot of pressure on Jawbone to prove that a well-acted, well-executed film could cut through. But it struggled to get screens and delivered pretty minimal commercial results. Exhibitors, platforms and retailers struggle to find a reason to break new ground or revisit a genre where previous efforts have failed or been few and far between. Margins and audiences are just too slender and fragmented, so there isn’t the financial cushion to allow experimentation without big names.”
Given Journeyman’s quality, considering the British boxing film’s legacy – or lack thereof – is baffling. In the 1930s, a handful of crime films delved into the world of prizefighting. Few, if any, live on in the public memory, but 1939 Ealing Studios production There Ain’t No Justice – adapted from a James Curtis novel – is a rare gem. Fresh-faced star Jimmy Hanley, whose career had been cultivated by Rank Studios since childhood, plays an up and coming fighter who doesn’t realise he’s caught up in a syndicate’s gambling racket. Boxing remained an incidental – if frequent – ingredient of the low-budget underworld films in the postwar period and up to the early 60s, featuring spivs, gangsters and fight-fixers. Ealing Studios producer Michael Balcon, who had produced There Ain’t No Justice, tried again with the The Square Ring (1955), but the reviews were not encouraging.
More recent films such as The Boxer (1997) and Guy Ritchie’s Snatch (2000) have seen commercial and critical success, with audiences primed to appreciate performances from bigger stars. Daniel Day-Lewis and Brad Pitt both committed deeply to their roles as born fighters in each film, different though they are in tone and background. In fact, Snatch focuses only peripherally on bare-knuckle boxing among Traveller communities, making it a boxing film in only the loosest sense. Still, Pitt’s dedication to depicting a bare-knuckle fighter saw him spending months with Irish Traveller families. Day-Lewis, for his part, took lessons from former champ Barry McGuigan until he was good enough to fight professionally. Veracity continues to be an important element of many boxing films, and Considine follows this through line – Journeyman features a host of real-life British boxing commentators, cornermen, and hangers-on.
On the face of it, the rising stardom of real homegrown heavyweight champs such as Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua – the latter’s fight with Wladimir Klitschko smashed Sky Box Office records – doesn’t seem to have helped. It may be too soon to hope that the recent surge in British talent will encourage film-makers to find uniquely British stories set in the boxing world. Vernon points out: “There have been some successful larger-scale releases for US boxing films. These tend to feature either a larger than life character (Ali, Raging Bull, The Fighter) or a star-led vehicle (Rocky, Creed). We haven’t had a recent breakthrough British boxing film – maybe ever.”
While a handful of modest releases can hardly be called a comeback, it’s in keeping with the spirit of the boxing film to remain hopeful of some sort of redemption. In the meantime, boxing fans should be keeping a close eye on how Journeyman fares at the UK box office. That should give some indication of where this dogged little national sub-genre is going.
West Ham once gave life to a part of east London, but the Boleyn ground is gone and the heart has been ripped out of the club
The fate of the little memorial garden on Green Street, next to where the Boleyn ground’s main entrance once stood, is just one of the problems facing West Ham United. Full of bedraggled scarves and wilting flowers and plaques dedicated to long-gone fans – should it be taken from its present location, where the roar of the crowd will never be heard again, and reinstalled in the club’s widely detested new home?
Another is the much loved statue 50 yards away, on the crossroads at the junction with Barking Road. It depicts Bobby Moore, the embodiment of the club’s self‑image, in his moment of greatest triumph, holding aloft the World Cup while borne on the shoulders of his club mate Geoff Hurst and Everton’s Ray Wilson, while a third Hammer, Martin Peters, looks on.
• Saints’ 3-0 defeat at Newcastle proves final straw • Pellegrino’s assistants also leave after one win in 17 league games
Southampton have sacked Mauricio Pellegrino after a miserable run of one win in 17 Premier League matches left them embroiled in a fight to avoid relegation with nine games remaining.
The club are targeting a swift appointment – a third in less than two years – ideally before Sunday’s FA Cup quarter-final at Wigan Athletic. They could, however, wait to name the Argentinian’s successor, because they have no league match until the end of this month, at West Ham on 31 March.
So much has changed at the Cheltenham Festival in recent decades as it has grown to become one of the essential fixtures in the British sporting calendar that a racegoer from half a century ago would scarcely recognise it.
There are new grandstands, new races, a fourth day, many acres of hospitality tents and even an entirely new course in the middle of the track. And while some of the names of the trainers would be familiar, the scale of their operations would not. Paddy Mullins, Dawn Run’s trainer, had 15 horses in his entire string in the mid-1960s – about half the number that his son Willie will put on a boat to the Festival this week.
A generation of punters has probably grown up believing that the turf at Cheltenham in March had changed for good too. If you had a (legal) bet at the last Festival staged on heavy going, you must now be in your late 30s at least. Whatever else may have emerged to thwart the backers’ retirement Yankees, it was always a fair assumption that the ground on the opening afternoon would be marginally onthe soft side.
But not this year. Even Cheltenham’s famously efficient drainage system has struggled to cope with the snow and rain, and the official going on Monday morning was predominantly heavy. Older racegoers will thus be able to bore their younger brethren with stories of slow-motion finishes on hock-deep ground, and jockeys whose colours were so thoroughly caked in mud it was difficult to tell one horse from another.
They may also pass on the useful advice that when the going is tough for the horses at Cheltenham, it can be punishing for the punters as well. Overall, the standard of the horses at the Festival has improved significantly and the winter form has stood up well on the better ground in March. This could be the year when, for both riders and punters, it all gets a little messy.
The danger lies in the dangling carrots throughout the four days, the short-priced favourites that look impregnable and promise to double your money on a regular basis as the meeting goes on. As now seems traditional, there are a series of apparent bankers on Tuesday’s opening card, which add up to a potential 14-1 four-timer for those – and there will be plenty – who want to charge in head down.
Samcro, the rising star of Irish jumping, is odds-on for the opening race on Wednesday, and while Altior is now a doubt for Wednesday’s Champion Chase after Nicky Henderson found pus in a hoof on Monday morning, there are also several returning heroes for backers to support. They are the most dangerous sort – the ones with something to prove – and for many, the chance to back horses like Faugheen, in the Champion Hurdle, and Douvan, in the Champion Chase, at prices that would have been unthinkable 12 months ago will be impossible to resist.
Before news broke of Altior’s problems, Henderson had the favourites for all three of the meeting’s most prestigious races and was around 12-1 to record an unprecedented treble. Altior looks 50-50 to run but will still start favourite if he does, and it would feel somehow appropriate if Henderson could add the Gold Cup to the Champion Hurdle and Champion Chase at what promises to feel like an old-fashioned Festival.
He has, after all, been winning races at the meeting since the mid-1980s but he was also an assistant trainer at Fred Winter’s stable in the 70s when the yard had the favourites for the same three races and left empty-handed.
If similar disappointment awaits Henderson this time around, the most likely beneficiary is Mullins, who is only four winners adrift in the all-time list at the Festival even though he started training a decade later. Mullins could conceivably draw alongside Henderson if everything fell into place this week but time is on his side and he would surely settle for a fifth trainers’ title in six years, having succumbed to Gordon Elliott on countback last season.
Mullins and Elliott had half a dozen winners apiece at that meeting, while Ireland recorded an astonishing 19 victories in all. Henderson is the only British trainer in a position to offer significant resistance to the visitors this year. Paul Nicholls, the dominant force in British jumping for much of the last 15 years, had just one winner 12 months ago in the Foxhunter and apparently feels that Wonderful Charm, in the same race, is his best hope this time around. But he will also saddle Black Corton, a 7-1 chance, in Wednesday’s RSA Chase, and give Bryony Frost an opportunity to round off her breakthrough season with a Grade One Festival success.
The mud will make for an unusual Festival. Jockeys will be under even greater pressure to time their runs and save something for the finish, while more horses than normal may slow to a walk on the final climb to the line. But these will still be the four days that crown jumping’s champions and create memories of triumphs, plunges and disasters that racegoers and punters will carry to their graves.
And if it does get messy, then for three days at least, there is always tomorrow.